Thu, 07 Apr, 2016, 14:45
Formula 1's plans to finally agree a new qualifying format later today are set to hinge on whether or not McLaren, Williams and Red Bull can be convinced to accept anything other than reverting to the 2015 format.
Following discussions at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, F1 teams are due to hold a teleconference later today to evaluate an aggregate style system to replace the heavily-criticised elimination format.
The aggregate proposal, which has been put together by the FIA, would see grids decided by a drivers' two best lap times from each of the three sessions in qualifying.
The concept has not been openly praised by all teams and, after McLaren, Williams and Red Bull (and therefore its sister team Toro Rosso) vetoed a tweaked elimination idea for Bahrain, there remains the situation that they could choose to stand firm again.
Sources also suggest that following evaluation of the details of the aggregate system, other teams are not in favour of the move either.
Their preference has been for F1 to revert to the 2015 concept and, amid the tense political situation that has engulfed the qualifying debate, the situation appears finely balanced and F1 could be forced to stick with elimination qualifying again.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley thinks that the fate of the qualifying will rest on how the three main teams view the situation – and if they feel strongly enough about the political motives to stand up against a format that fans do not appear to support either.
"There are three teams that obviously feel very, very strongly about the process as it is today," Fernley told Motorsport.com.
"I think if the teams that are particularly uncomfortable can get comfortable and then they present that to all the other teams and the other teams are aligned with them, that's the first hurdle crossed," said Fernley. "Because then you've got a 100% unanimity with the teams.
"But then it's got to go to Bernie and Jean to make sure they are comfortable with it."
When asked if the qualifying argument had become about politics, rather than finding the best format, he said: "I think it could have possibly been dealt better. A little bit of compromise might not have been such a bad solution."
Listen to fans
Haas team principal Gunther Steiner remains hopeful that his rivals will go in to the meeting open-minded about doing what is best for the sport and fans, rather than using it for their own gains.
"We need to make sure that we have cars out there going around more than what we feel about how we want to qualify, what we want out of it," he said. "It is more, what does the fan want out of it?
"The fan wants cars going around being competitive and fighting for positions on the grid – the pole position. That is what is happening at the moment, to look into it, to make a good spectacle for the fan.
"It should not be about what I like, where I have got an advantage or you have got an advantage, because I think F1 teams they have so many clever people that within three races we do all the same anyway, so we are back to square one.
"We need to make sure that the cars are out there going around, that the fans can see we are fighting for something, and that we are not just trying to save tyres or do something for 5-10 minutes where nobody is out there.
"That is our approach and hopefully we can come up with something pretty soon that the fans are happy."